What you feel when you see a logo can vary quite a bit depending on how it was made, but what you feel when you actually know the organization behind that identity usually has everything to do with how they behave in their day-to-day activities, and beyond – such as community involvement. There is some pretty extreme behavior going on these days, from top to bottom these days in all sizes and types of institutions:
- Chrysler pays as much as $200k per full-page Thank You ad for bailout money, then censors comments when questioned about how wise it is to spend bailout money on thank-you advertising. Can you think of a more succinct way to alienate your target market? I suppose they could have flown a lear jet to Washington to ask for for the bailout money. What’s that – they did? Oh dear. My thoughts go out to those Americans who are wondering why their hard-earned money is in the hands of Chrysler – it shouldn’t be.
- Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has become an embarrassment to Johns everywhere by spending $1.2 million on office renovations while Merrill Lynch was forced to lay off employees (they say “firing” in the bloomberg.com article – it’s not the same thing) at the same time. John Thain also figured out a way to give out $4 billion in bonuses this past December – a bit puzzling considering they lost $15 billion in the same quarter. Since the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, John Thain became one of the Presidents of Bank of America, but has since been ousted – the reason given by Kenneth Lewis being that “it just wasn’t working out.” No kidding – who would want to give their money to someone who spends their reserves on area rugs and antiques? Confidence eroded.
- A Vancouver man was attacked by 3 drunk police officers this week past in a pretty shocking scenario. The attack is still referred to as “alleged” because they haven’t gone to court yet, but witnesses are already coming forward to the media. I go to Vancouver a fair bit and I feel safe, despite the fact that there is a lot of gangs and violence in the city. Hearing about 3 off-duty policemen attacking someone while off-duty is deeply disturbing, especially when you also add in that racism may have played a part – this will be hard to prove, but I suppose if the investigation is good for anything, it will uncover some of these details in full. I heard the victim speaking about the incident and honestly it makes me completely sick to my stomach to hear what those police officers did to him. The street workers who were not too afraid to break it up despite the situation deserve a significant amount of credit. What those three police officers need to know is that this hurts both the publics confidence in police and the police themselves in many ways. These deeply flawed police officers do not need demotions or desk duty so that they may continue to poison the organization, they need to be fired and questioned, sentenced appropriately, and they need to apologize to Phil Khan and the people of Vancouver for making them second-guess their instincts when they see a badge. To me, those three were not police officers, they were just three guys who wore police uniforms for money. Everyone will be better served if they are brought to justice swiftly and with weight.
The Merrill Lynch/John Thain example is a top-down cultural dysfunctionality with money that has eroded confidence; the Chrysler/Thank example is one that probably originated with the advertising department – somewhere in the middle of the organization’s structure which erodes customer confidence in the organization; the Police/Phil Khan attack speaks pretty clearly to the public about the problems with police officer screening and off-duty police officer street-level behavior and seriously threatens the confidence citizens have in the officers that are meant to protect them.
So why all this fuss about confidence? Why does it matter? It has to do with relationships and whether or not we choose to interact as a society – be it socially, financially, or simply functionally. The less we interact, the more our world freezes in stasis; no movement means no trading (recession), no sharing of ideas, less possibilities for synergies of all kinds, you get it. Our institutions are meant to work for the benefit of society and enable us to do bigger things. When elements of them turn on us, it is disheartening on a larger scale. These are important institutions, and we need people in them that understand the importance of the work they do. It’s not just a job.
I have to give you something good after trudging through all this serious business, so here is a very nice ambient piece Anand made tonight.